For those of you who are new to the blog, a few weeks back I wrote of my discovery of an artefact belonging to a boy called Montague Fowler in a long forgotten chest in the old stables of a country mansion.
The whole thing intruiged me. Here in my hands was this beautifully written piece of schoolwork, its writer long dead. It chronicled many things I’d never even heard of – my education didn’t teach me about troy weights, wool weights and apothecaries measures. On its reverse were ‘leading dates of English History’, from 55 BC to 1857.
As aforementioned in the previous entry, this was found alongside a Bible which also belonged to Montague, but in this his name has the prefix of ‘Reverend’. Ben and myself were fascinated: being old souls at heart we both felt it was poignant that this gentleman’s possessions were now languishing in a chest somewhere. Over the next year or so, I then decided to see if I could demystify the enigma that was Montague Fowler and see if I could put a face to the name, and see what became of him.
Powered by Google, I typed in ‘Montague Fowler’. As I expected, a barrage of results popped up, none seemingly helping me track down the man I was after. The first relevant page went on about Fowler Baronets. It listed a series of four baronetcies created for various families Fowler, all of which were no longer in existence. I scoured through them and lo, the very last entry, was a Reverend Montague Fowler.
Now using nothing but Google, some caution had to be exercised. The only things I had to go on was the document shown here; and that it was found alongside an A5 leather bound bible with ‘Reverend Montague Fowler’ on the inside sleeve.
So from this lead, I then googled Reverend Montague Fowler. From the search results that came up, it seems very likely he was the only Montague Fowler of the period who entered into the service of the Church. What became immediately obvious was that the Reverend was a respected and eminent man of the day, having been Chaplain to the Archishop of Canterbury, Justice of the Peace for Rossdale and a prominent author. It also turns out (and this is a point that I’ll come back to later) he’s the son of Sir John Fowler, one of the greatest civil engineers of the Victorian era who counts the Metropolitan Line and the Forth Bridge amongst his many accomplishments.
To delve a little deeper, Google also has parts of a biography on Sir John that shed more light – the family home until 1867 was 2 Queens Square Place in Bloomsbury, a fine three storey town house which still stands. As a monument to Sir John’s success, forty-thousand hectares is bought in Rossdale and Inverbroom in Scotland, where the family moved to and from subsequent research, it’s where Montague lives on and off until the end of his life.
From this biography, it also emerges that a close family friend was Bishop Edward Benson, more commonly known as the man who invented the Nine Lessons and Carols service. To Montague, this man gave him the position of being his own Chaplain in Lambeth Palace, and Montague acknowledges and thanks him for this in the foreword to his book about Some Notable Archbishops of Canterbury.
He married Ada Dayrell in 1889, and this is mentioned in the Illustrated London News. Montague also served in various places as a priest – St. Stephens in Kensington and All Hallows London Wall to name but a few. By the time he became Baron of Braemore, the title had already passed through his two older brothers and his nephew, who was killed in action in the First World War. As the last remaining male heir, he assumed the title and as he only had two daughters, the title followed him to the grave in 1933. An obituary can be found on the bottom right of this page from the Kingston Gleaner, dated Friday 21st April.
Another stub biography can be found here (you’ll need to scroll down a bit) which corroborates his life story, and also goes onto say he studied at Harrow School and Trinity College, Cambridge.
So after a year or so of research, I was able to piece together the life of a man who’s schoolwork is now in my possession. Did he ever think someone would investigate to see who he was and the life he led, eighty years after his death? Probably not. He seemed like a very nice guy though: history looks upon his legacy with praise.
As an epilogue, there was a grave in Brompton Cemetery I’d admired since my first visit in 2012, and by complete coincidence, it turns out to be the grave of Montague’s father, Sir John, his eldest brother, sister in law and her mother. The next question that is to be asked is where was Montague buried, as it wasn’t in the family plot. Seeing as according to his obituary he died in Bushey near Watford, I’d presume he was laid to rest in that locality. I’m rather keen to find out a little more, as a result there may well be a ‘Mystery of Montague Fowler, Part Three’ in the pipeline.Related articles
- The Mystery of Montague Fowler (cemeteryclub.wordpress.com)
- The Mystery of Montague Fowler, Part Three (cemeteryclub.co.uk)
- The Mystery of Montague Fowler, Part Four (cemeteryclub.co.uk)